A Travellerspoint blog


Exploring Bonn and gearing up for Berlin!

Road trip tomorrow!

sunny 80 °F

As I was cooking up my omelette this morning, Bernd worried about my cholesterol but I assured him that it was off the charts low. Little does he know that these 3-egg omelettes are dwarfed by the 5- and 6-egg omelettes I usually have at home!

When Bernd headed off for the management meeting, he told me to take the afternoon off since I was no longer giving my presentations to the management team. In the morning, I went through the English version of their website and put together a little report of changes and suggestions. As it was a beautiful day and I still had a few museums to see in Bonn, I heeded his suggestion and put the top down for the drive into Bonn.

I parked at the museum behind this lovely Ford and wondered why the folks at Ford never brought it to the states…

The USA in Germany exhibit started right after the end of the war. It talked about the publicly displayed posters that America and the other allies saw as essential to the “re-education and denazification” of the German civilians to show the atrocities that had happened right under there nose (since many pleaded ignorance of the extent of the crimes)

This flag was pretty cool. The 7th regimen brought it with them when they landed in Sicily in 1943 and carried it with them as they made their way up through Bavaria (southern Germany).
Here’s a picture from the regimen walking through a German town after the war.

In an effort to keep Germany weak and prevent future aggression, the US and other allies began an “Industrial Dismantling,” confiscating many tools and machines, many of which ended up in countries like Greece that had suffered heavily under German occupation. In what had developed as a theme from my visit to the permanent exhibition of the museum, many former Nazis essentially buried or disregarded their past and were allowed to live normal lives without ever paying retribution. One such example was Wernher von Braun.
He was arrested in 1945 and later went to the US with other German rocket experts as a part of “Operation Paperclip” to work for the American missile program. He later received great acclaim for his leading role in the US space program.

Next was an exhibit on the blockade and subsequent airlift. From June 1948 when the soviets blockaded the roads to Berlin in an attempt to get the US, France and Britain to relinquish their claim to West Berlin, until May of 1949, 270,000 planes brought in over 2 million tons of food, coal and supplies to West Berlin.
You can imagine that planes had to take off non-stop to bring supplies to an entire city. At the peak of the airlift, there were more than 1,400 daily flights to and from Berlin…not quite a “plane a minute” (which was the catchphrase at the time), but close!

In 1944, the US pressed for free trade worldwide at a conference of representatives from 44 nations. In what came to be known as the Bretton Woods Agreement, the delegates agreed on a system of exchange rates with the US dollar as the reserve currency (as it was freely convertible into gold at the time). The Americans made sure to get West Germany included in the system as soon as possible.
Eventually, the US recognized the potential in West Germany and stopped the industrial dismantling of Germany. With memories from the war still fresh on their minds, France and the UK wanted Germany to stay weak, but eventually were convinced by the US to support German reconstruction.

In 1949, the city renamed a street after US General Lucius Clay who had organized the airlift and in 1951, the West Berlin Airlift memorial was erected, and dubbed “The Hunger Fork.” They even had a picture of President Clinton at the 50 year anniversary of the airlift.

A funny little piece of US organized propaganda was the “Amerikahauser,” or America Houses that were started in West German cities to make Germans familiar with western ideals of democracy, culture and society. They became an important part of America’s “re-education” policies after the war and were an important part of the cultural life in West German cities.
I’ll admit I was wondering why anyone would go to such a place, but apparently they were successful. They said that the library, film screenings, lectures and exhibitions at the America House in Berlin regularly drew large crowds and that there were over 14 million visitors per year at the America Houses across the country during the 1950s.

Former President Hoover suggested that German students be provided with an additional meal during the day and they came to be known as “Hoover Meals.”
Other programs, such as the supplies provided in the “CARE USA” program contributed to the image of the USA as a benefactor in the hearts and minds of Germans. They event went so far as to say that “recollections of American support shape the collective memory of the Germans for decades, extending into the present day.”

In many ways, I was proud of what the US did to help Germany rebuild, but I couldn’t help but question our motives in doing so, especially, when I read about the “Building a Better Life” exhibition in West Berlin in 1952 that attracted significant public interest when they set up a model house without a roof and allowed visitors to peer into its rooms as an actor-family demonstrates the comforts and technologies of the “modern western world.”
In some ways, the museum itself wasn’t sure what to make of these opportunistic exhibitions. For example, such exhibitions were obviously beneficial to American companies, but it also talked about how it was an important instrument of the Cold War to show western superiority over the socialist economic model. Overall, they did a nice job presenting an unbiased approach.

In the 50s and 60s, West Germany and West Berlin clearly recognized the US as a protector and significant driver of the economic upturn. German businesses and industries gained from technology and management methods in the US. They really highlighted the symbolism the Berlin Airlift as a milestone of German-American bonding and Kennedy’s Berlin visit in 1963 made him (and by extension the US) an icon in their hearts. Their ideal image came to include the American suburban ideal of the time…a house in a nature-setting on the edge of town crowned with a “Hollywood garden swing.”
The growth in West Germany was dubbed an “economic miracle” as more and more this ideal became achievable.

Pop culture became heavily influenced by America as well. Jukeboxes brought by soldiers after the war played American music, James Dean and Levi’s Jeans became part of the ideal as well.

Levi’s even made it to East Germany. East German-produced jeans wouldn’t cut it, so the regime even had to import US jeans to meet demand. Jeans and an American military jacket became one of few ways that East German youth could project their individuality.
Looks like the standard dress code for an attendee of any rally in the US against the war in Vietnam, no?

Though Reagan gained media attention for his “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” speech in June of ‘87, but for Germans the end of the division still seemed far off at the time. They did have a cool little artifact that was a polished chunk of the Berlin Wall that was signed by Gorbachev, Bush and the German Helmut Kohl in 2009 at the 20 year anniversary of their respective roles in the Berlin wall finally coming down.

In 1994, US Army units in Berlin lowered the flag for the last time.
Though that was the end of a chapter of our direct influence in Germany, there is obviously still a strong link in todays world. They traced the events of September 11th and their effects in Germany, including 11 Germans that died in the Towers. Their empathy was evident in this child’s drawing:
I thought that it was pretty significant that children over here were moved as well.

There have also been disputes, such as a conflict over the looming “Second Iraq War” in 2003, where their foreign minister Joschka Fischer at the time was at odds with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s plans and famously replied “Excuse me, I am not convinced!”
There was similar sentiment among many German citizens as well (which probably isn’t all that much different than the mixed feelings among Americans at the time)

Despite disputes, there is quite clearly an American influence in Germany. A story that made headlines on German TV was that of Konny Reimann and his family who emigrated to America.
Apparently, there are numerous advice books on how to successfully resettle in the US and many who wish to leave Germany forever still see the US as an ideal destination.

Also, I was unaware that “mortar-board caps” and gowns were an American tradition, but they noted that this business school in Germany had an “American Style Graduation Ceremony,” and also that the American business school model is spreading in Germany.

Since Germany is much more progressive than the US, with their public health care, free college educations, worker’s councils and higher taxes, they pretty much universally had a sigh of relief when Obama became president after Bush was so at odds with the German (and European) model.

Overall, it was fascinating to take a look at the American influence abroad. As I mentioned the museum did a great job of showing all sides of the story, which is pretty rare for many American history museums that are on our own soil. Mostly, I just enjoyed seeing the German perception of America. They even had some interesting public opinion polls scattered throughout the museum that provided a snapshot in time of things like which country they trusted most (out of US/UK/FR/USSR) or whether they had a favorable opinion of different countries at different points in history. It was funny to see US flags and merchandise in the store too!

After I left the museum, I headed over to the Arithmeum. Perhaps I built it up too much in my head, but when I walked past, their walls were luckily all glass so I could peak inside. It didn’t look as interesting as I imagined, with basically just a bunch of old typewriters and stuff, so I decided to skip it. Instead, I decided to walk to the Poppelsdorf Palace.
I really regretted not checking this out the first time I was in Bonn, as this view must have been incredible when all of the trees were still blossoming. On my way down the long park leading up to the palace, I passed by a little bookstand where an old guy brought a book and searched for a new one. Even in a presumably academic university town, this was a peculiar little cultural oddity.

The palace had been turned into a museum that I wasn’t necessarily interested in, but I enjoyed checking out the architecture of the building itself.

A half hour or so later, as I headed back through the park to the center of town, there was now two people using the little stand-alone library/book-exchange. Kind of cool that people actually make use of it. I can’t imagine this ever working in the US.

Next, I headed to the Beethoven Haus (WHERE HE LIVED?), but unfortunately it was closing in 30 minutes so they wouldn’t let me in.

It was getting late and I was getting hungry, so I headed back to my car. On the way, I passed an ambulance and a police car. It’s not just in the Jason Bourne movies, the police really drive BMWs!!!!

I looked at some souvenirs along the way too, but those German beer steins are like 50-80 euros. Even this mini one that was smaller than a shot glass was 20 euros ($25-30). Craziness.

Earlier in the week, Bernd and Elke had mentioned the movie Berlin 1-2-3 and insisted that we watch it before going to Berlin. So after dinner when Bernd asked what I wanted to do, I suggested we watch since tomorrow we leave for Berlin! It was created as a satire of east/west relations through the story of an American Coca-Cola exec running the operations in Berlin. When he walks into the office in the morning, everybody instinctively stands out of habit from the days of Hitler. He pleads with his assistant to get them to stop, but his assistant says “That’s the problem with democracy. They didn’t used to have a choice and now that they can choose, they choose to stand!” His assistant can’t kick his habit of clicking his heels from his days in the German Army and claims to have been stationed in a subway, where they so rarely let him above ground that he never knew of all of the atrocities committed by the Nazis. Anyways, there are all kinds of little cultural nuances that get poked fun at throughout the movie. I definitely got a lot more out of it having Bernd there to clue me in to some of the jokes.

The general story line is that the Berlin exec’s boss sends his daughter to live in Berlin with the Berlin exec and his family. When the boss comes to visit, the Berlin exec finds out that the daughter fell in love with (and married) an East Berliner who has been brainwashed as a communist and has a clear disdain for capitalism. They plan to run away together to Moscow before her dad comes. The Berlin exec crafts a plan to play along with their runaway and tells the husband to go back, but sends him over with some American propaganda so that he ends up being arrested and tortured and kept awake until he’s in a state of delirium, eventually falsely admitting he was an American spy just so that they would stop torturing him.

The Berlin exec’s wife is outraged and gets him to pull a few strings using Coke and his attractive secretary as bribes East Berlin officials to break the husband out of jail. As a spy(and now a fugitive too), the husband can never go back to East Berlin or the Soviet Union. Hilarity ensues as they try to reverse years of communist ideology and turn him into a gentleman and a capitalist. It turns out that in between filming this movie and its actual release, the Berlin wall went up, so the movie was a complete flop because nobody could laugh about the situation. When the walls came down, it was rediscovered and became a cult classic. I was really glad that Bernd and Elke recommended it!

Near the end of the movie, Elke got home from her trip and discovered why the clueless bachelor’s couldn’t use the microwave...their microwave has a special feature to have a “grill” element, where coils on the top of the microwave heat up and somehow that had been turned on, melting the tupperware lids. Whoops.

After the movie, Bernd told me a great story of the Brandenburg gate, which was highlighted often in the movie as the gate to pass from East to West and decades later came to symbolize German division and later the reunification. He scoffs at the way many museums say that the wall going up was a surprise. Everybody in the West knew it was going to happen because hundreds of thousands of East Germans and East Berliners were coming to the West every year through Berlin, the best place to cross after the rest of the inner-German border had been heavily fortified. When he was around 10 years old, he and a friend knew that the wall could go up any day and decided that they were going to go touch the gate while they still could. Berlin is a huge city and it was quite a ways from his house, but they nevertheless hopped on their bikes and made the trek. They were successful in their quest until they realized that the whole way there had been slightly downhill and they had a long uphill climb to get back home. Not long after, the wall did indeed go up. How cool is that? To me it was an iconic example of the fearlessness and adventurousness of young boys across the backdrop of one of the most significant historical events of the last 50 years. Just an incredible story…it could be its own movie or at the very least in a museum with their actual bikes and a picture of him and his friend.

Bernd printed out a few maps of Berlin for me and showed me where our hotel was, which looked to be right in the center of the city! By this point, it was pretty late, so after I did some research on the top things to see in Berlin, I packed up for our road trip tomorrow morning. So glad to have seen the movie and heard Bernd’s story to drum up some excitement!

Posted by atbrady 18:28 Archived in Germany Tagged history in palace germany museum berlin usa german bonn beethoven haus 123 poppelsdorf Comments (0)

Back to Business

Pitching to SIG

rain 60 °F

This morning, Bernd had left for Berlin for the day and Elke was headed out the door for a few days in Hamburg, so I was on my own. Luckily, Elke had thought of me when grocery shopping over the weekend and there were plenty of eggs for breakfast. It was a beautiful day, so I headed out to the office with the top down.
On the way there, the radio station was playing a Spanish song. I had to laugh at being in Germany while listening to a song in Spanish. Finally a language I could somewhat understand! At first, I thought that it was unique that they were so open to songs in languages that they may not fully understand. When we’re winding down at the end of the night and Bernd is playing various records, he often plays songs from France, Italy or even Eastern Europe. As I considered it, however, I gave the old US of A a bit more credit because to some extent, the only culture we are geographically close to is the Mexican and Hispanic cultures of Central America and the Caribbean, and in many ways, we have embraced the musical influences of their culture as well.

In the morning, I had some more time to work on tomorrow’s SIG presentation. I had already intertwined their history and desired culture to Conscious Capitalism, so now I had to integrate some of the slides Bernd had sent over from a past presentation about the Cultural Values Assessment from Barrett. I may have mentioned that last week I received an email from Gallup with a timely article about disengagement among German workers, so I was able to integrate some of those findings as well as the findings from the Edelman research on Trust that Bernd had shared with me. It was a lot to go over in one presentation, but I tried to organize it in a logical way. I started with the Edelman and Gallup research to identify the need for intentional management of culture, then presented Conscious Capitalism as the ideal to strive for. My hope was that this would naturally lead to the question of “How do we start the journey to that ideal?” where I would then come in with the Barrett tools as a concrete way to measure and manage culture. I tried to stay on as high of a level as possible to fit it all in, but there was an extensive, EXTENSIVE appendix for further information.

Bernd’s general approach for SIG was that they had just developed their Vision, Mission and Values and were planning to formally introduce them at the management conference coming up in June. They had asked Bernd to be the keynote speaker at the conference, but he was unable to attend. Since they seemed to be such an interesting prospect, however, he offered to sit down with an executive to give ideas and do what he could to help, in hopes that it might strengthen the relationship and lead to some future business. So the general objective was to provide them with as much value as possible in the presentation.

Next to the Konzepte office is another “office” turned barn for horses. Since it was such a nice day, I could see people walking the horses around outside through my window and could hear them neighing happily. It was an interesting dynamic to have this stable right next door.

There hadn’t been much in the fridge, so I didn’t bring anything for lunch during the day other than an apple. I worked until about 3 then planned to head into Bonn to grab some food and check out the few museums I hadn’t had a chance to explore. One was the Arithmeum, which I think I mentioned explores the intersection of technology with art and design throughout history. I also wanted to check out the special exhibit at the German History Museum I had went to with Bernd last week. There was a Die USA in Deutschland exhibit that had made me do a double take until I realized that Die was just “The” in German. When I looked online, however, both museums were closed on Mondays, which was a bummer. Nevertheless, I had some other errands to run in Bonn. For one, my camera’s memory card had been filled up late in the day in Brussels so I needed to find a camera shop to buy a new one. In addition, the blossoms around Bonn had blown me away as I wandered around last weekend, but it had been hard to get shots of them at night. So I decided to head to Bonn anyway, despite the fact that I couldn't get to the museums.

On my way out of Konigswinter, I passed a grocery store and figured it was as good a place as any to do my shopping, so I walked around and found some veggies I needed for eggs in the morning, restocked my stash of nuts and grabbed some ham and cheese for lunch as well as a few other miscellaneous things. Shopping in any unfamiliar grocery store takes quite a bit of extra time to wander through all of the aisles and having things in different languages may not have hurt me in the produce section, but elsewhere it only added to the confusion. A few things I noticed along the way. McDonalds has capitalized on their UBIQUITY to create their own line of condiments.
Also, they don’t refrigerate their eggs in stores here. On top of that, I’m not sure whether they had eggs left over from Easter or if this was just a normal occurrence, but they had dozens (or rather half-dozens and 10 packs) of colored eggs.

I had spent probably 45 minutes to get just a few things and as I went to check out, my credit card would not work. The cashier didn’t speak any English, but I thought she said something about MasterCard, so I tried my other credit card but that wouldn’t work either. It was the only checkout in the whole store, so the line started to grow behind me. Eventually a few of the people in line were able to help a bit with translations. Apparently they only accepted debit cards. I had one of those too, but it wouldn’t work either. I Was apologizing profusely to the people behind me, but they all seemed to be understanding (or at least pretended to be, which I still appreciated). The guy behind me eventually offered to pay for my groceries then have me follow his car to the nearest ATM to pay him back. I was blown away by his generosity, but when he explained where the ATM was, I decided I could make it there on my own. So I had to withdraw money and then come back to finally get my groceries. At this point I was beyond starving, but had to get to Bonn at a reasonable time to get to the camera shop, so I ate on the way.

When I got to Bonn, I found the camera shop with relative ease and then set off to the shopping district and main plaza in all of its blooming glory. I passed one tree whose blossoms had shrivelled and fallen to the ground. Then I passed another that was now completely green. Unfortunately, my window of opportunity had closed since I had been in Bonn just a week ago. I walked around for a bit anyways, noticing that German college students weren’t much different than American ones, packing the quad (not sure if they call it that in Germany) to sunbathe, read, relax and of course play Frisbee.

I also walked through a couple swanky parts of Bonn with some really nice houses.

Passing a Starbucks on the main square, I remembered how Bernd had told me of the struggles of Starbucks in Europe. We hypothesized that their main value proposition in America of offering a place for friends to meet, relax and enjoy themselves simply was not unique in Europe. Virtually any café or restaurant offered a similar relaxed atmosphere where you could stay as long as you wanted. Bernd called to tell me that he had landed, so I headed back home so that we could have dinner together. When I got back home, he showed me a pocket-sized introductory German book he had bought me in Berlin. He had noticed my interest in the language and in trying to pronounce German words and read signs and I so appreciated the gesture.

For dinner, we headed up some leftovers from the freezer. I had curried chicken that was really good and made myself a salad as well, using the extra curry sauce as dressing. We had a bit of a debacle heating things up in the microwave. The tops of the containers were totally melted and we couldn’t figure out why. After all, they were the exact same containers we had used to heat up leftovers several times before. It remained a mystery…

After we ate, I gave him a rundown of the research I had done on SIG and showed him what I had come up with for the presentation. He really liked that way that I used their mission, vision and values to fit into Conscious Capitalism and the Barrett tools. He offered a few suggestions, and I worked on them as he DJ’d some records before we turned in for the night.

The next morning, I got up early to go for a run before we headed to SIG. On my way, this little boy was walking to school and heard me coming and ran with me for a block or so which was cute.

On the way to SIG, which was in Linnich, a small town about an hour away, it started to pour. Bernd introduced me to a German expression that translates to “the clouds are breaking apart.” I read my new book on the road, which began with pronunciations for each letter in German. Bernd and I both had a few laughs as he coached me with my pronunciations along the way. We also had an interesting conversation about how language not only results from, but also perpetuates larger cultural trends. For example, we talked a little about the book “When Cultures Collide” that was the basis for their cultural awareness training that I enjoyed reviewing last week. In Sweden, collision would be too brash, so they translated it to “When Cultures Meet.”

At SIG, we first met with an old colleague of Bernd’s that used to be one of the Konzepte freelancers and was now heading a training department there. They spoke in German, so I continued to read my Intro German book and also grabbed a few of the SIG marketing materials in the lobby to browse through. I also snapped a few pictures in the lobby. Here was their values
as well as examples of some of the products that use their carton technology
I had been completely oblivious, but Bernd later noted how the values were made to look like one of the cartons, which was pretty cool.

When it came time to give our presentation, the guy was a bit strange. We thought that he might be sceptical as to our true motives to come all the way here just to offer advice, but gradually he opened up and seemed genuinely interested in what we had to say (though he was still a bit of an oddball). He was actually very interested in the Cultural Values Assessment, so our meeting went for close to an hour and 45 minutes as we explained it in greater depth and offered up a few examples. Not only was it a good sign that the meeting went so long, but the types of questions he was asking made it seem as if he was already sold. He asked some good questions about the best way to introduce the assessment to managers and then the rest of the team and then how to roll it out. Bernd even floated the idea of getting Richard Barrett to be the keynote speaker for the conference, which could be neat as well. Overall, the meeting couldn’t have gone much better. I only wish that I would be around to watch and assist as the relationship develops.

During the meeting, they had spoken of the worker’s council, so I asked Bernd about it on the way home. It was basically like a union in Germany, except that employees didn’t have the option of whether or not to join…once the company reached a certain number of employees, they had to have a workers council. As the company grew larger, they actually had to pay the salaries of a certain number of people (based on # of employees) who no longer had to work “for the company,” but instead whose sole responsibility was to lead the workers council. Quite an interesting arrangement for management to adjust to.

Tonight for dinner I made another small salad and heated up some more chilli. This time, we put the Tupperware in warm water to get the food out and heat it up on a plate. Tomorrow I was scheduled to introduce the Konzepte folks to some of the other instruments and ideas I’ve been learning about such as TTI’s job benchmarking and Growth Curve systems and also the “6 Sources of Influence” for habit change from the Change Anything book that seemed like it could easily be the foundation for one of their training programs. However, many of Bernd’s clients have been going through tough times and cutting back dramatically on their training budgets and as a result, Konzepte is in a tough spot. The thought of downsizing had been looming on his mind if a few big proposals they’re currently working on didn’t come through for them. After looking at the numbers recently, however, it became clear that he wasn’t going to be able to wait. The company was set up mostly through a network of freelancers, but there were some salaried employees that he couldn’t afford to keep. Unfortunately, a feature of their contract was to be given 6 months notice. This feature that was expected to protect employees ironically ended up hurting them because Bernds hands were tied and he couldn’t wait it out on their proposals and instead had to give them notice. To wait to hear if their proposals would be selected could be months, at which point he would be paying another year’s salary. Since there were clearly more pressing issues to discuss at the Konzepte management meeting, my presentations were tabled. After that tough discussion of everything that had been weighing on his mind, we had another low-key night of music and some wine before calling it a night.

Posted by atbrady 11:44 Archived in Germany Tagged history museum german bonn konigswinter arithmeum linnich Comments (0)

First Work Week in the Books!

...and an adventure planned for the weekend...

sunny 55 °F

This morning I had my requisite eggs before heading in to the office. On my way, I got a picture of that magical sign that makes me giddy on the autobahn.
Most of my day today was spent researching SIG, the company that Bernd and I will be presenting to next week. I think I mentioned earlier that this company had recently came up with eight values and was starting to take a look at corporate culture. They were planning to unveil them at their annual management conference, and a former Konzepte trainer who was now at SIG recommended that Bernd give the keynote on the importance of corporate culture. He was on vacation and couldn’t give the speech, but saw a business opportunity and told the guy putting the conference together (not the former employee) that he would sit down with him to give him some ideas on culture. After my presentation early in the week, he had been sufficiently impressed to ask me to come along and help put the presentation together.

Reading about the history of the company was interesting. They make the machines that make the kind of cartons that you might find chicken broth or orange juice in. They were the first to create a recloseable spout top and also the first to create the screwtop integrated into one of these packages. They had a number of different ventures in other realms of packaging that had been spun off over the years. At the very beginning, they had even been involved in making railroad cars and weapons!

They had put together a vision, mission and values that all sounded great and actually aligned well with Conscious Capitalism. As I started to pull the presentation together, I worked in Concious Capitalism and while explaining each of the four pillars and examples of companies that embody them, I also pulled out quotes from their vision, mission and values that aligned well with that specific tenet. For example, an excerpt from their vision read “succeed through mutually beneficial cooperation with our customers,” and their mission included “a systems solution that cares for the environment.” These aligned well with the stakeholder integration tenet. The final line on the vision/mission/vales page of their website said “We reward our shareholders by maximizing their returns in parallel with meeting our wider responsibility.” It seemed like a home run! I also worked in a plot of their values on the Barrett model, where their 8 values mapped to levels 3-6.

As I started to put their presentation together, my guess was that while they may aspire to these lofty goals, since this vision/mission/values were new, they probably weren’t living them fully, so I used a Barrett worksheet to get them to start thinking about what behaviors the company exhibits (or doesn’t) that embodies their values.

Last night, Bernd had told me about speed traps in Germany. Apparently they have cameras all over the place that will take your picture and send you the bill for 10-15 euros for being even a km/h over the speed limit. I’m conditioned to look for cop cars, but not cameras, so when I followed Bernd home from work, I was extra cautious on the way. When we got home Bernd was concerned that something was wrong with the car and said that I was going so slow he was afraid the bugs were going to start hitting the BACK windshield, which I thought was hilarious.

After work, it was time for the weekend tradition of heading into Bad Honnef for dinner at La Bruchette with their friends. Elke was headed home from a training and was going to meet us there, but ended up getting home in time to head there together. Only Gunthar could come this week, so I’m afraid I’ll never know his brothers name. Gunthar wanted us to know that we were lucky he was there because he had just got a brand new big screen TV delivered and only had an hour with it before dinner.

Well, its officially asparagus season! Its so funny how nuts everybody gets about asparagus. I guess because we can get it year round, we don’t value it as much, but asparagus season in Germany is pretty much only May and June and it's a huge deal. The restaurant had an entire specials menu of asparagus themed dinners!

I was really tempted to get the salmon I had last week because it was incredible, but I decided to buy into asparagus fever and got some ham and asparagus dish. Bernd got the same and Elke got asparagus soup. Last week, the people next to us had some strange looking dish and Elke had explained to me that it was vitello tomato (sp?). Its veal with tuna sauce and she ordered it for us to share.

After we ordered, the little old Italian guy who owned the place went to fresh cut our ham. You would have loved him Kristine.
I also remembered to get a picture of the awesome faux pergola over the bar since this is probably my last time at the restaurant (as we’ll be in Berlin next Friday)

Dinner came, and it was simple, but actually very good.
Elke unfortunately had to realize at dinner that I was halfway through my stay in Germany, which didn’t seem possible. I practiced some of my German vocab and pronunciations for fork, spoon, knife, etc. and they were impressed at how much I had remembered from a few days ago (though the pronunciations still need a lot of work). Gunthar also couldn’t believe that I had made to Cologne and back by myself. Apparently getting back from Cologne is complicated, but somehow I made it without any problems. Gunthar had walked to the restaurant, but we drove him home and in the spirit of learning German I asked Bernd and Elke how to say “Nice to meet you.” It was such a long and complicated sentence that I couldn’t even muster an attempt. Bernd said that Germans generally don’t really say nice to meet you, maybe partly because it was such a cumbersome sentence in German. In the car, Elke also mentioned that she had gotten great gas mileage on her drive back from the training earlier in the day, 8.51 liters per 100km, which is apparently how they measure it here. Good luck with that conversion.

When we got home, I talked back and forth with Chris Maloney for a while. I had originally planned to fly to the cheapest of Prague, Vienna or Budapest this weekend, but had considered Belgium as well. Not until mid-week did I remember that Chris was living in Belgium. It probably made more sense to do Prague, Vienna AND Budapest on another trip as they were relatively close together, while Belgium was much closer, plus you can’t beat knowing a “local!” I had thought about driving late at night on Friday to make the most of the day on Friday, but it was too late and I wasn’t up to it. The first Saturday train wasn’t until the afternoon, so I decided to wake up early to drive to Leuven, which is only about 2hrs 15minutes. It’s a college town just on this side of Brussels where Chris lives with his wife. I spent a couple hours looking up all the things to do in Brussels, Antwerp and Bruges and downloading a high-resolution map of each from Google images. This is cheaper than buying a map and its actually pretty convenient to have on your phone too if you remember to do it while you have internet. Packing and off to bed and looking forward to another adventure!

Posted by atbrady 05:11 Archived in Germany Tagged germany bonn working values konzepte conscious capitalism barrett sig Comments (0)

Have you ever seen this before?

Cultural differences and a rant on mostly inconsequential observations

sunny 60 °F

The day began with a delicious scramble
then I went into the office.

Most of the day was spent finishing up translations. I was really fascinated by their training on “Working Across Cultures.” It talks about research by Geert Hofstede in which he characterizes culture along 5 continuums.

The first characteristic is Power Distance, the extent to which the less powerful members of society accept that power is distributed unequally. In cultures that score low in this characteristic, everyone is believed to have equal rights and superiors tend to be accessible. Change tends to happen in a gradual evolution. For cultures at the other end of the spectrum, inequality is accepted and seen as necessary. Superiors have certain privileges and aren’t very accessible, so change tends to happen by revolution.

Second is Individualism. Does the society tend to have a “we” consciousness where relationships have priority over tasks and fulfilling obligations to family or other groups is paramount and the main fear is that of shame and “saving face.” On the other end of the spectrum is the high individualism cultures, where there is an “I” consciousness which leads to a focus on fulfilling your own obligations (and those of your IMMEDIATE family) and the greatest fear is guilt and losing self-respect.

High Masculinity cultures value performance and have a need to excel. They tend to polarize and covet what is big and fast. Decisiveness is paramount and successful achievers are celebrated. Compare that to the low masculinity cultures that focus more on quality of life, serving others and striving for consensus. There tends to be more sympathy for the unfortunate and intuition is highly regarded.

Another characteristic, which Lothar had mentioned in my training last week was Uncertainty Avoidance, the extent to which people feel threatened by uncertainty and ambiguity.. One side is more relaxed and less stressed, emotions are not readily shown, dissent is accepted and conflict and competition are seen as fair play. These types of cultures have less need for rules than the other side, whose anxiety makes conflict a threat and agreement a prerequisite for moving forward. These cultures have an inner drive to work hard, a need to avoid failure and feel much more comfortable with plenty of rules and laws.

The final characteristic is Long Term Orientation, the extent to which a society shows a pragmatic future-oriented perspective vs. a conventional historical or short-term point of view. Is the culture concerned with absolute truth, tradition, stability and quick results? Or does it accept that there are many truths and take a pragmatic point of view while accepting change and persevering?

Through his research, he then scores each country on these 5 characteristics so that comparisons can be made (and preparations can be made if you are traveling or dealing with other cultures). For example, Germany and the US score similarly on the lower mid range of Power Distance, high on Individualism (although the US is off the charts high), in the upper middle range of Masculinity and at the lower end of Long Term Orientation. The biggest difference (as Lothar had mentioned the other day in the training session) is uncertainty avoidance. Germans score quite high, while the US has a much higher tolerance for uncertainty. Evidence is apparent words we have borrowed from German, such as angst.

At first Germans and Americans will get along well because many Germans speak good English and they’re always on time. Germans tend to appreciate American drive and energy and are charmed by our friendliness. Over time, this “honeymoon period” (where I definitely still am – LOVE the direct feedback, although Bernd describes himself as a sort of hybrid) may give way to frustration when the Germans seem rigid and authoritarian to the Americans, while the Americans seem superficial and unreliable. It then gives tips for interacting, such as preparing for a presentation, where Germans will want as much background information as possible, even if it doesn’t seem immediately relevant. They’ll prefer to carefully consider the past and present before forming a plan. They will be skeptical of American optimism about “potential markets” or “the promise of new developments.”

Also, while Americans tend to get right to business as compared to most cultures, they are in the opposite role with Germans, who find even brief small talk to be a waste of time. You can even see this in the German translation of small talk, which means “empty chitchat.” Germans keep their work and personal lives very separate. Along those lines, Germans are very direct in speaking up when something bothers them or giving criticism. This is considered to be a sign of an open and honest person. Konfliktfähigkeit,” a willingness and ability to engage in conflict, is greatly admired. When you criticize someone, it is seen almost as a compliment because it means that you take them seriously. Contrast that to the US, where for the most part we avoid open confrontation and give indirect feedback that requires reading between the lines. I could go on and on (and I pretty much did), but it was fascinating stuff. There were also comparisons to India and Poland.

Usually there are only a few people who work out of the Konzepte office, but today a dozen or so of the freelancers were in the conference room strategizing about what kind of new trainings they can put together. Bernd had told me that the day’s focus was on trainings for the health industry, but he wasn’t in the meeting and when I talked to a few of the people during a break, it sounded like they were asking me about programs that companies have in the US focused on employee health. When I talked about subsidized gym memberships and blood pressure screenings, she clarified that they were more concerned with mental/emotional health, or what we would probably call engagement and fulfilment. It was really too bad that the meeting was being conducted in German, because I would have loved to have been a part of it. One of the perks of having a meeting at the office was having a fancy catered lunch!
The melon and prosciutto were my favorite! Using little zucchini slices instead of crackers was a cool idea too (Though this would probably really disappoint Kristine).

Because I didn’t do any sightseeing or picture taking today, when I got home, I decided to spice up this post with a few observations of things I have noticed that I have never seen before, which gets back to the original headline (before I went on a tangent about culture). So if its just me and you have seen these things in the states before, let me know.

First, a German keyboard. It looks deceptively harmless because at first glance, everything seems to look familiar, though you may notice that their special characters ö, ä and ü have replaced a few punctuation keys on the far right.
As you start typing, however, you’ll realize that they decided to make one change just to piss you off. They switched the y and the z. Now if they decided to totally rearrange the keys to make more sense for them, I would understand that. But to make just one switch seems silly to me. Anyways, I’m luckily using my laptop most of the time, so the only time I’ve had to deal with this was when I was using that internet café in the airport on my first day.

Moving on, I may have mentioned Sambal Oelek already, but if not, here it is.
I put it on my eggs every morning, and its pretty delicious. I think I mentioned that Elke shutters every time she sees what a large scoop I take to put in my eggs or mix in with my chilli.

This one was kind of cool. We have tomatos on the vine and we have cherry tomatoes, but in my 2 years in the produce department at Wegmans, I never saw cherry tomatoes on the vine.

Eggs. How many eggs do you want? A dozen? Too bad. You can only have a pack of 10. What, 10 is too many you say? Would you like half that? You’re out of luck. You’d have to get a half dozen.

I’ve seen this elsewhere in Europe and might have even mentioned it on blogs from past trips, but I have to say I really think this is a great idea. Most toilets have 2 flush options. A little one and a big one. I’m sure you can figure it out. Seems like a smart little environmentally friendly way to only use as much as you need.

This one cracks me up, though it kind of makes sense. Have you ever seen tomato paste like this?
I guess I can’t blame them. If tooth paste comes in a tube, why not tomato paste too?

Wait a minute, nevermind, they don’t put tooth paste in a tube!
It’s a good thing this toothpaste has a picture of a tooth on it, because I never would have been able to tell. It looks like some kind of face lotion bottle and has words that look like revitalizing on it. To top it off, the toothpaste that comes out is kind of watery and is a creamy pink color, both of which would have made me think it belonged on my face. I had to try it to check, but I was nervous. It may or may not be toothpaste. Certainly not minty like in America.

These are just AWESOME. The little metal bars can be raised or lowered to pull little pulleys in the ceiling and raise or lower the lights themselves. Wish Home Depot carried these bad boys.

Fridges here are much smaller. I was showing Bernd and Elke pictures of our house the other day, and they immediately commented on how enormous our fridge was. They laughed that theirs had been a bit cramped for 3 people, but I took the blame, because most of the space was taken up by my veggies (despite the fact that I have maybe a quarter of the amount of veggies that I usually keep in the fridge at home).

I’ve been meaning to look these up and find out what they are, but they seem like some kind of cream cheese or something. For something of that consistency, tubes don’t seem like such a bad idea. I wonder why we don’t use tubes for food products in the States?

Light switches. Damn. I finally adjusted to not thinking every door was ajar, but I cannot get used to light switches for bathrooms being outside the bathroom. Every time I walk in there and out of habit start to shut the door and reach for the light switch in one motion. And time after time I have to reopen the door fumbling around the corner blindly trying to find the lightswitch.

Last but not least is 16 wheelers. Big trucks at home tend to be all sheet metal. On a very rare occasion the back doors might be canvas. Every once in a while you’ll see those pepsi/coke trucks that have doors along the entire length of the sides that roll up. Here, I have yet to see a truck that wasn’t completely enclosed in canvas (except for the back doors for some reason). Maybe because their winters aren’t as bad? Not sure on this one.

Yesterday, Elke had dug up an old coupon from when they cancelled their gym membership to the gym that had denied me. It was a coupon for one month free and it specifically said that it was transferrable. So around 6pm, I ran over to the gym. The people at the desk ignored me again, so I just walked in and started working out. The weights section wasn’t much, but it was nice to get a workout in. Halfway through, one of the fitness instructors looked at me funny, probably because he didn’t recognize me. He left and came back with another person, who obviously didn’t recognize me either. The person he brought back came up to me speaking German and eventually got across in English that she wanted to see my pass. I told her it was in the locker room and started to head over there and she told me not to worry and to show it to her after my workout. So as I was walking out, she took a look at my coupon. I’m not really sure why, but apparently it wasn’t acceptable. Oh well, glad we figured that out after I was done!

For dinner, Elke made steaks! She was very nervous about the portions because she kept commenting how they were much smaller than American ones. It didn’t matter to me though…she cooked it perfectly and it was incredibly tender. I tried to get cooking tips, but mostly she gave credit to the US beef. America! She finally let me help, as I mashed carrots and potatoes for this fancy little weight watchers dinner.

Usually, when traveling to Europe, I don’t shave just to see how long my scruff will grow. Because this was a business trip, I cleaned it up a little bit by shaving my neck and having as proper of a beard as I can grow. By tonight I had had enough of it. Probably the most ‘stache I’ve ever had (though its still laughable). I hesitate to show the picture in the bottom left, because when my facial hair gets long I usually mess around and shave it into different things but this one looks absolutely ridiculous.

Posted by atbrady 04:40 Archived in Germany Tagged germany cultural bonn product differences windhagen Comments (2)

A history lesson straight from the source

Museum of the History of the Federal Republic of Germany with Bernd

sunny 60 °F

Today (Wednesday) was a national holiday that split up the week nicely. Since it was a holiday, Bernd and Elke were up eggs for breakfast. My two egg omelettes had overstuffed them on Sunday, so both requested just one egg apiece. I was going to make a two egg omelette and split it in half, but Elke wanted mushrooms, scallions and cheese and Bernd wanted fewer mushrooms and wanted cherry tomatoes added in. So instead, I made the first one egg omelettes of my life. I wish I had taken a picture before I served them. Unfortunately, they were so darn thin that even on half power, Elke's cooked through almost immediately. Bernd's turned out a bit better by turning down the stovetop below halfway and cooking for literally no more than 10 seconds. In the morning, I continued to refine some of the marketing and online materials that Konzepte has as well as their English language training programs.

Around noon, Bernd took me to the Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (Museum of the History of the Federal Republic of Germany). I had been really looking forward to this museum since I first researched the things to do in Bonn and Bernd had expressed interest in going as well.

The museum began with a brief overview of WWII. Here was a Nazi party rally. I'm not sure I've ever seen so many people in one place:
And a Bomb England board game for kids:

With this kind of propaganda, you start to understand the remarkable influence that the Nazis were able to command and in many ways, the brainwashing that they were able to carry out, starting with the kids.

Seeing this uniform from one of the concentration camps gave me an eerie reminder to the movie "The Boy in Striped Pajamas" and started to choke me up, in addition to seeing a cloth of Jewish stars to be cut out and sewn on to their clothing.

What I found especially interesting was that guards at the concentration camps were forced to state their name and rank on video. They had parts of the video playing at the museum.

They did a really nice job at the museum of using real artifacts and rubble to give you a peak into life at this time.IMG_0997.jpg
Bernd told me about unexploded bombs like this that would be periodically found throughout Berlin after the war and that he would regularly pass streets that were closed off to deal with these bombs.

He also told me about Kindersuchdienst, the Children Retrieval Service run by the Red Cross. In the mass confusion as people were fleeing from the Nazis and later the Red Army, several children were lost or separated from their families. At the end of the hourly news on the radio, there would be a public service announcement where a few children would tell all they could remember about their family and hometown, hoping to be recognized and reunited with their family. Amazingly, this continued through the mid 1960's. Here's one of many card catalogues of several thousand misplaced people:

This was another incredible picture. As Germans went through the rubble that had been their cities and their homes, salvageable bricks were saved and organized to be used to rebuild the cities. Talk about recycling! Everyone pitched in to the effort. You have to think such an experience contributed to the determination and efficiency with which Germans conduct business, even today.
To be able to get food vouchers, you had to pitch in to the cleanup and rebuilding efforts daily.

On the way to the museum, I had asked Bernd about the founders of the country that had written the constitution. It was fascinating to think that their constitution had been written in the lifetimes of many Germans alive today (especially in comparison to ours which was written centuries ago). It was written in a museum in Bonn, simply because it was the only building still intact that was large enough to house the assembly. Several Germans were hesitant to move forward with drafting the constitution because they were still holding out hope that Germany would be reunited. Here's a picture of all who participated in the assembly. Notably, there were a few women.
When you create a new country, you need a new flag. Here were several finalists:
When Germany was reunited, it simply adopted the constitution of what had been West Germany.

Heres the original chairs from the first assembly hall. visitors could sit in the chairs and watch videos about certain issues and vote on them, but they were in German, so I couldn't really participate.

Here's a look at the border between East and West.

On June 17th, 1953, a strike in East Berlin led to a widespread uprising all across East Germany.
In thinking about the spreading of such a movement in just 24 hours, it's pretty remarkable to consider how fast it spread through word of mouth and Western radio broadcasts alone (without the help of TV news coverage, social media, etc that aided uprisings like the Arab Spring). Here's one of the tanks that was brought in to suppress the uprising. It was so heavy that even after gutting it, they had to cut it in half AND add additional supports to keep it from making the floor collapse.

After dealing with the formal splitting of Germany, the museum turned to the developments on either side of the border. First was a room dedicated to the West...Here was a famous toy from West Germany that I had to include only because I knew Kristine would love him.

This was one of many remarkable photos from a slideshow depicting German cities after the war, then after 10 years of rebuilding:

When we got to see some of the gadgets, cars and pop culture pieces of the day, I saw this car and remarked that it looked like a airplane cockpit. Bernd said thats exactly what it was. After the war, the company had switched their manufacturing operations from planes to cars, without changing the design too much.

The room depicting life in the East was equally fascinating. When looking at some posters about the youth groups in East Germany at the time, Bernd commented that it seemed so obvious to West Germans that the Hitler Youth organization had simply been replaced with a similar structure that revered the leaders of the Soviet Union.

Bernd recalled paying a months wage on this tape recorder, which could record songs from the radio using a microphone. He laughed remembering the terrible audio quality from such a process.

For a past birthday, Bernd had had the museum rented out and his guests had been given a private tour of the museum. It was remarkable for him because he related the room about life in the West with great childhood memories, while memories of the East brought distasteful and fearful memories. At the same time, one of his secretaries, who grew up in East Germany, had quite nostalgic memories in the room depicting life in the East.

Onward in the museum, we came upon the beginnings of the Berlin Wall. I had long wondered what would lead to such a monstrosity, and here was the answer. East Germans had been fleeing the "workers paradise" (as Bernd sarcastically called it) to the West in droves. Eventually, the Soviets put up barbed wire coils to demarcate the line between East and West.

Neighbors and even families were separated with no way to cross over. In time, the barricades became larger and larger. A few brave young men took a train through roadblocks to cross the border in the first days of the barbed wire wall. The Soviets responded with more barbed wire.


This was an iconic photograph from the period, where a photographer noticed an East German soldier pacing uneasily near the barbed wire border and eventually snapped a picture as the soldier jumped over. What a decision in must have been to leave family behind and risk death, and yet you can imagine how that single decision dramatically would have shaped his life from then on. Had he waited a few more days or weeks, the wall would have been built up to the point where such a jump was impossible.

As the walls reached higher, it was not uncommon for families to climb ladders just to wave to friends and family that they had been separated from. There were no phone lines, no mail and certainly no border crossings to ever see them again. This street in particular had been split down the middle. Other photos showed some families climbing out of windows to get over the barbed wire barricade and escape to the West.

After years of denying the existence of the war, these trials started to uncover the extent of the atrocities.
This is what led many young people to start asking questions and demand that the events be recognized and documented so as to prevent it ever happening again.

Moving on to the reunification, here was the original document signed to reunify Germany:
And the ensuing celebration in Berlin...
Here is a section of the wall, of which Bernd assured me there would be plenty more opportunities to see when we get to Berlin.
When the wall came down, East Germans flooded into the West and were each given 40 Marks as Begrüßungsgeld, or greeting money.

After the museum, we sat down in the museum coffee shop to chat for a while. It was truly incredible to get Bernd's perspective about living in West Berlin "on an island." Bernd told me that his father was a German soldier and after the war, had been given advice to avoid the French and British and instead to seek refuge with the American forces. From this experience, his father developed a deep reverence for America and passed it on to Bernd, who has always been fascinated with America, getting the chance to house an American exchange student, then live with that student's family to be an exchange student himself and later going to grad school at Michigan. We also had an interesting conversation about how much land Germany had given up when post-war lines were drawn and how the surrounding countries each claimed chunks that cut into what had once been German territory. The Germans had accepted this willingly as retribution for the war, which was pretty remarkable considering all of the wars that have raged in the middle east and elsewhere over similar situations.

As we were leaving the museum, we noticed a special exhibit about The American Way, subtitle "Die USA in Deutschland" which made me do a double take until I realized that it meant THE USA in Germany.
We were headed back home to Skype with my parents and didn't have time to walk though, so I'll have to come back. Regardless, it was funny to see so much American pride so far from home. There were even US flag scarves and books in the gift shop.
It would be fascinating to see. All this and the museum was free!

After Skyping with Bernd, Elke and my parents, I was had a bit more work to do. Around 6, I went for a run. Near the beginning of my run, I ran past a park not far from home and decided to switch up my workout. After all, I hadn't ran 3/4 days in a row since my marathon training and I needed a change of pace. So instead, I used the playground to do pushups, pullups on the bars, dips between the benches and inverted rows on one of the railings. After a circuit, I would jog up the steep hill nearby, then repeat. I'm still trying to figure out what I can do with the seesaw haha. I ended with a few sprints up a smaller hill. Overall, it was kind of fun!

I got in home in time for a quick shower before dinner at 7:30. We each heated up some leftovers (I laid claim to the chili con carne, so no complaints here!)
We had a great dinner conversation. Bernd cited the fact that there is no German translation for "serendipity" and after explaining its meaning to Elke, it was funny to note that Germans probably didn't believe in such a thing and how culture can influence a language. On the topic of translations, we also had a lengthy discussion about how translations aren't always so straightforward as we tried to find the English equivalent to the German phrase which roughly translates to "he cooks with water." Eventually, I was able to determine that "he puts his pants on one leg at a time" was our phrase to describe someone who may seem superhuman, but is really just like the rest of us. To top it all off, we ended the night watching Bayern Munich own Barcelona 3-0! Elke had the closest guess with 3-1 Munich, while Bernd had been least optimistic, with a 3-1 prediction in favor of Barcelona and I was in the middle, guessing 2-1 Barcelona. Too bad there is such a long layoff until the final game at Wembly stadium in England...I'll be back at home. It would have been awesome to be in Germany for that game.

I felt extremely grateful for the day. To learn about the recent history of Germany from someone who lived it was truly a once in a lifetime experience.

Posted by atbrady 12:02 Archived in Germany Tagged history the of germany berlin world west wall east war ii republic federal bonn cold 2 nazis Comments (2)

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